Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan has said the onset of winter could lead to a spurt in coronavirus cases in the country. According to the union minister, the viruses are known to thrive better in the cold weather and low humidity conditions.
He also gave an example of the United Kingdom where COVID-19 cases increased during the winters. He added that it would not be wrong to assume that the winter season may see increased rates of transmission in India too.
He exhorted citizens to join Prime Minister Narendra Modi's call to take a pledge and join the massive country-wide awareness campaign and "Jan Andolan" for two months, including the winter season, so the pandemic does not spread further.
The health minister advised people to wear masks or face covers, especially in public places, wash hands regularly and maintain respiratory etiquette to mitigate the virus transmission.
He also urged people to stay away from large congregations and diligently follow COVID-19 guidelines during the upcoming festive season. "No religion or God says that you have to celebrate in an ostentatious way, that you have to visit pandals and temples and mosques to pray," Vardhan underlined.
Vardhan also detailed the steps taken to prevent occurrences of COVID-19 infection among healthcare workers. He said states have been thoroughly supported in terms of PPE Kits, N-95 masks, and HCQ for protection and prophylaxis of healthcare workers managing COVID cases.
He also said in the first phase, the Centre had released Rs 3,000 crores to states and UTs to battle the COVID-19 pandemic. Almost all, except three states and UTs, have utilised the complete grant. Maharashtra has used only 42.5 per cent of the grant, followed by Chandigarh at 47.8 per cent and Delhi at 75.4 per cent, he stated.
At present, the number of coronavirus cases has crossed 70 lakh-mark in the country, and the fatalities count has climbed to 1,08,334.
Nationwide, the ICMR is testing more than 10 lakh samples per day, exceeding the World Health Organisation's benchmark of 140 tests per 10 lakh people. But many of these are antigen tests, which look for virus proteins and are faster but less accurate than RT-PCR, which confirm the coronavirus by its genetic code.